For non-Yinzers, Franco Harris is simply a retired football player of some notoriety. For football-as-religion Yinzers, he is the leader of “Franco’s Italian Army” and the man upon whom the football gods bestowed the blessing of the Immaculate Reception, an improbable play that resulted in a walk-off Steelers playoff victory. While he sustained a successful Hall of Fame career, that one play has defined his place in football history.
Despite a brief stint with the Seattle Seahawks in the twilight of his playing days, Franco Harris has remained a presence in Pittsburgh. His legend status and continued involvement in the community has led to a great deal of interaction with Yinzers, and you can guarantee that every Yinzer has a story about the time they met Franco Harris.
Yinzers will not hesitate to tell anyone who will listen that Franco “ain’t a jagoff,” “is good people,” “is dahn to earth,” and “is good to talk at n’at.” Whether it be at a Democratic rally with Barack Obama, an autograph session at the Union hall, or just walking the streets, Yinzers always make it a point to tell Franco how much they love him. While that chance encounter would become a nice anecdote for most people, it becomes a center of conversation for Yinzers. “Yeah, I know Franco,” a Yinzer will say, as if Franco Harris was a neighbor that once fed the dog while the Yinzer was at camp at lake Pymatuning. The Yinzer will then recount every glorious detail of the interaction. He will work himself into an absolute frenzy if Franco happened to be wearing his Super Bowl rings that day as well. “Oh my gosh,” he will say, “those rings were so beautiful it almost made me cry.” Usually, the story ends with, “Franco’s not as big as I thought he was.”
Listen intently to a Yinzer as he speaks of his run-in with football glory. It is impolite to sneer at anyone’s dream come true, especially when it involves meeting a personal hero. And, in the event that you have a chance encounter with Franco Harris, simply shake his hand and say “nice to meet you.” He has heard it all already, and he probably respects anyone that does not wag their tail in his presence.